Black Snake

I’ve taken several classes online, including a Masterclass by reporter Bob Woodward.  Woodward basically said that everyone has their own version of the truth.  What they saw, from their perspective, given their existing knowledge and underlying belief system. 

But underneath what we each believe, there are facts.  We are all entitled to our own opinions.  No one is entitled to their own set of facts. 

I started out as a documentary filmmaker.  My 1st picture was on national cable TV.  My 2nd picture went undistributed.  I couldn’t raise money for the next half dozen pictures I wanted to make, so I have a file cabinet stuffed with unfulfilled dreams.  I didn’t make any more documentaries. 

But I passionately agree with Woodward that a journalist’s job – and in a Democracy, every citizen’s job – is to come up with the best, most accurate obtainable version of the truth.  Because Democracy dies in darkness.  Because predators always hide, and human predators create a thicket of false facts to hide in.

Our founding fathers had the optimistic notion that Americans could act like good neighbors.  That we could reach smarter decisions together than any one of us could consistently come up with alone.  That we could discuss our differences calmly.  That we could look past our beliefs to find the facts.  That we would then use those facts to improve our all lives.  

Without facts there is no sustainable prosperity.  Without basic prosperity, life sucks.  A family with hungry children is the most politically unstable unit in the world.

Lately, we have seen a triumph of false facts over neighborliness.  Below is a poem I wrote about how recent political events have brought new light to a very old set of false facts, that was used to steal Native land and murder Native people.

Black Snake by Katherine Brann Fredricks 

Lay aside bitterness.
Lay aside fears.
There’s a black snake
on the Trail of Tears.

It’s been seven generations
since we took your land.
Now foreign people want mine.
Now I understand.

We all drink this water,
though we once fought to the knife.
At Oglala waters,
even old enemies have to agree,
water is life!

Cowboy boots and deerskin moccasin,
stop the black snake
with truth for medicine.
Canadian tar sands
for Chinese cars.
Stop the black snake.
Protect what’s ours.

It’s been seven generations
since we told those lies:
“We’ve come here for your good!”
Lies to colonize.

Now I apologize
for my ancestor’s lies.
Now I recognize
tribal wisdom I despised.
Now I apologize
for the genocide we legalized.
Now I cuss
foreign enterprise
come to vandalize us!

For our sacred waters,
for our farms and fields and rights.
For our children’s futures,
cowboys and Indians, time to unite,
Cowboys and Indians, fight!

Obama embalmed the KXL.
Trump raised it like a zombie:
smell that chemical smell!
Biden took a pen.  
Killed the black snake again.
Say yay! But stay tough.
Kill a zombie twice?
Twice may not be enough!

While we drink these waters,
we’ll teach our sons and daughters how
to respect each other,
and protect each other,
so they may safely drink these waters
seven generations from now!

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